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Online dating dupes people out of millions

The cost of love: Victims of romance scams lost an average of $21,000.

The cost of love: Victims of romance scams lost an average of $21,000.

A passionate online romance with an aid worker in Africa might sound appealing but it is one of many scams that cost Australians more than $93 million last year, with dating scams among the most lucrative.

More than 2440 jilted lovers reported a tryst - with a worker supposedly from the United Nations, an engineer working in the Persian Gulf, or a serving US soldier - that quickly escalated to a financial disaster, a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission shows.

More than 84,000 Australians who contacted the ACCC lost $93 million to scammers who wanted an advanced fee for a service, offered online shopping promotions, lottery tickets or were involved in computer hacking, the report showed. The average age of victims was between 33 and 45.

Delia Rickard, ACCC.

Delia Rickard, ACCC.

Of the online dating victims, 30 per cent reported a loss of more than $100,000 after they were duped into sending money to help ''build a new orphanage'', start a business together, travel together or for illness.

Victims of romance scams lost an average of $21,000, the report said.

''They are not only breaking people's wallets, they are also breaking their hearts,'' deputy ACCC chairwoman Delia Rickard said.

Despite the relatively small number of victims, dating website scams became the second highest category for losses, totalling more than $23 million. Investment scams recorded a loss of more than $30 million, asking victims for ''up-front payment''.

Australians' losses to online dating scams are up by $8 million on 2010.

The fake relationships would often start on a legitimate dating website, and were generally conducted by scammers in Nigeria or eastern Europe, Ms Rickard said.

For months, the new love interest would ''groom'' their victim, sending them flowers, presents or long love letters.

Romance victims who earnestly believed they were in a serious relationship would become defiant when police suggested their love affair had been a sham, Ms Rickard said.

For more information on scams, go to scamwatch.gov.au/outsmartthescammers

116 comments

  • I was 'kissed' on a fairfax owned site a couple of months back by a handsome man, American College hair cut, photographed in his Ralph Lauren Polo shirt under the Statue of Liberty. So after me asking a few questions what he did while living in "Bathurst"... the reply was that he worked for United Nations in the peace corps . He was American, and was currently living in Australia as his deceased mother was Australian. He grew up in The States but now stationed in Bathurst. After I told him that I also grew up in the US and went to school not far from his, and how ironic I travel to Bathurst to see my son in college I also have friends Lt Col in the UN... After seven messages from him then nothing!.. The game was up.
    This is not the first time I have been fed similar lines.
    I refuse now to buy online Dating Stamps. Not policed enough even after reporting. Lost a couple of stamps due to expiry but would rather lose $60 than waste time sorting the wheelers and dealers.
    I guess there are more trusting women out there than me who are just so bored with their own life, anything sounds believable.....But the UN in Bathurst, come on pull the other one!

    Commenter
    UN in Bathurst!
    Date and time
    June 17, 2013, 1:20AM
    • People need to be sat down and told that the Cinderella complex is not healthy

      Commenter
      JB
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 9:04AM
    • pps Good luck everyone.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Kew
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 11:42AM
    • Made my day.

      Bathurst didn't even have a Macca's when I grew up there.

      We had to go to Orange for a Big Mac.

      So yes, the UN in Bx is rediculous. But have you tried Orange?

      Commenter
      Nick
      Location
      ex-Bathurst
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 11:55AM
    • Poetic, yes. Ironic no.

      Commenter
      SinoPeachy
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 11:57AM
    • I'm baffled as to why the media don't instruct people how to use image search. Simply go to Google image search, upload the profile image and see how many times its used. That will sniff out a scammer 90% of the time in 2 minutes.

      Commenter
      Dabug
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 12:34PM
  • As soon as money is requested upfront you know it is a scam . Simple really

    Commenter
    Phil
    Date and time
    June 17, 2013, 1:34AM
    • I agree. Asking for money from strangers is a big red flag. I don't loan money to people I know and interact with every day let alone some random stranger from another country!

      Commenter
      Audra Blue
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 9:51AM
    • +!.

      Commenter
      Maggie
      Location
      NSW
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 12:06PM
    • I wouldn't give money to anybody until I had sex with them at least a few times.

      Commenter
      josephina
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      June 17, 2013, 1:17PM

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